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praying handsAs my far better half and I read the Christmas round robin and handwritten letters we have received, it has been apparent that, for all our friends, this year has been unlike any other that we could have predicted.

My regular readers will know that I have been reading and writing much about COVID-19 as well as some of the people involved in studying it, making policy decisions or, to a lesser extent, have been affected by it in a familial or financial way.

I owe a debt of gratitude to British parliamentarians on both sides of the aisle for the following intentions. I should also thank BBC Parliament, because, without that channel, I never would have surmised the depth and breadth of the coronavirus crisis on our lives.

I have devoted much time to thinking about other people’s family members (ours have gone to their rest) as well as business owners during the past nine months.

These special prayer intentions are dedicated to them. I am using the first person plural for anyone who would like to pray along.

Thank you, Lord, for watching over us and our world this year, a time when so much was unexpected and unknown. We know that things could have been better but we also acknowledge that things could have been much, much worse than they were. Thank you for our everyday blessings. Please help us to appreciate what we have, even on our darkest days.

With that in mind, many are in pain and need moral or material support.

O Lord, we humbly ask You to please bless the following at Christmas and in the New Year ahead:

Those who are lonely and had expected to be reunited with loved ones after a long and difficult year. Please help them to find comfort during a time when they had expected to be with family and friends;

Those who have lost a family member to coronavirus or to a medical condition that went untreated because of hospital or clinical capacity restrictions. We ask that You continue to comfort those in their loss, especially at this most family-oriented time of year;

Those who are still awaiting urgent medical treatment and testing for conditions known and unknown. May they receive prompt scheduling for inpatient and outpatient procedures promptly in 2021;

Those who were unable to visit loved ones in care homes during the year because of coronavirus restrictions. Please comfort those family members and help bring them relief in the New Year with clinical protocols — such as ample lateral flow tests and requisite PPE — allowing them that long-awaited reunion in person;

Those women who had to be without their husband, partner or another loved one whilst giving birth or losing a newborn child earlier in the year. While policies have since changed for the better, their anxiety or grief will have been heightened by successive months of ongoing uncertainty in the world;

Those who have suffered unbearable living conditions in tiny or overcrowded accommodation whose year has been marred by family conflict or domestic abuse. Please bring comfort or a means of refuge to those who have had to endure this acute pain, be it physical or emotional;

Children whose education has been interrupted for much of this year because of the virus and whose final grades and examinations might have been adversely affected. Please give them hope for the future and the intellectual wherewithal to pursue their studies, whatever their vocation and aspiration in life;

Men and women who have lost their jobs this year, sometimes permanently. Please help them to maintain the hope they need to persevere in life. Grant them a speedy return to work in the New Year;

Men and women who have lost their businesses or who are unsure if they can reopen when circumstances permit. Please grant them a way forward — perhaps involving a new business partner in the same situation — so that they may continue doing what they love to do most. We ask this particularly for those in the hospitality industry, upon which so much of our conviviality depends;

Our physicians, nurses, paramedics, staff and other frontline workers in their care for us in hospitals, testing centres and clinics. Please help them to maintain their stamina — both physical and mental — so that they may continue to care for all those requiring urgent medical attention;

Those who deliver food, medicines and other orders to depots and to our doorsteps. Help to keep them alert, punctual and cheerful as they go about their work, especially lorry drivers who have long and time-sensitive journeys to make for our well-being, health and delight.

O Lord, we ask that You and the Holy Spirit enlighten:

The scientists and doctors who are working to develop vaccines as well as make medical recommendations to public health bodies. Please guide them in making the correct decisions that work for the health of everyone. Please help more prophylaxes become available as part of a public health initiative so that not all of us have to depend on a vaccine;

Our politicians — whether local, regional or national — in making the correct public policy in future. If they have made mistakes, help them to make amends. Please keep them away from harmful outside influences. Guide them towards viewing the citizens — upon whom their positions depend — as equals rather than subjects and lesser beings. Most importantly, help remind them of our freedom and civil liberties which must be restored soon;

Our clergy, most of whom have been doing whatever they can for their respective congregations. Please help to keep them spiritually strong and physically resilient as they meet the needs of the faithful and share the Good News with others;

Every one of us, so that, as individuals, we may continue to care for each other in this ongoing drama. Help us along this continuing journey and please provide us all with a better way forward, rather than subject us to those who have only their self-interest in mind. Help us to remember the great light and hope that the Christ Child brought to our world. Help us to remember your Son, Jesus Christ, in times of trouble and tribulation. Please continue to send us Your infinite grace and mercy as we face another year of uncertainty.

Dear Lord, graciously hear our prayers on behalf of all affected by coronavirus as we pray for your blessings upon them — and us — through Jesus Christ our Lord, our only Mediator and Advocate. May the Holy Spirit also help to strengthen all of us in 2021. Amen.

President Trump had a busy schedule at the end of May 2019, which included a return trip to Japan.

This time it was a State Visit.

As he and First Lady Melania would be out of the country on Memorial Day weekend, they visited Arlington Cemetery before their departure:

On May 25, the first day of the State Visit to Japan, Trump met with that nation’s business leaders, too many to list here:

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie hosted the Trumps for dinner that night. Abe had not forgotten his guest’s favourite dessert:

Abe was delighted to welcome back his friend:

The next day, the two world leaders played golf:

Their wives toured the Mori Building Digital Art Museum:

The QTree explained the significance of the following day’s welcome by the new Emperor and Empress of Japan — a first for both couples:

… our President and FLOTUS become the first guests of Japanese Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako at the Imperial Palace.

There are three components to the state visit: (1) The guest arrival and formal greeting by the Emperor and Empress. (2) The ceremonial anthems of both nations and the presentation of the imperial guard.  (3) A “state call” or discussion of diplomatic matters between the Emperor, Empress and their honored guests.

During the official state call component there is an exchange of gifts.

1) Formal greeting by the Emperor and Empress …

2) The ceremonial anthems of both nations and the presentation of the imperial guard.

The ‘inside palace’ greeting and introduction was not covered by international media. However, due to the significance of the visit (first of imperial era of Reiwa) it was broadcast on local Japanese media (below).

Body language and facial expressions can’t be faked. They are all VERY PLEASED AND HONORED to meet one another. Such a proud moment for both nations.

(3) A “state call” or discussion of diplomatic matters between the Emperor, Empress and their honored guests in video below.

Then, there was the customary exchange of gifts. The Japanese emperor is an accomplished violin and viola player, as evidenced below in this video from 2007:

The accompanying press pool report states (emphases mine):

The President presented the Emperor an American-made viola in a custom case and a signed photo of American composer Aaron Copland. This vintage 1938 viola was handmade in Charleston, West Virginia. The President also presented the Emperor with a signed and framed photo of the President.

The First Lady presented the Empress with a custom White House desk set featuring a pen made of Harvard tree wood. The Empress herself studied Economics at Harvard. This fountain pen was handcrafted from a red oak tree that still stands in Old Harvard Yard. The First Lady also presented the Empress with a signed and framed photo of the First Lady.

The Emperor presented the President with a traditional Japanese pottery and porcelain bowl as well as a signed and framed photo of His Majesty the Emperor.

The Empress presented the First Lady with an ornamental Japanese lacquer box with traditional design as well as a framed and signed photo of Her Majesty the Empress.

Note: It is long-standing custom of the Imperial Palace that their Majesties the Emperor and Empress exchange signed, framed photographs with their guests on the occasion of a State Visit.

Afterwards, Trump and Abe held discussions on trade and security:

Their wives attended a cultural presentation:

Upon his return, Trump tweeted:

While the Trumps were in Japan, on May 25, actor Jon Voight tweeted:

The president faces the same threats as Lincoln did. He is in danger every day from people who desperately want to remove him from office, either by death or by impeachment. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi says Trump belongs in prison.

The Mueller Report left the door open to more scheming by Democrats.

The coup is not yet over.

Therefore, on May 30, the Revd Franklin Graham issued a national appeal for prayer for the president on Sunday, June 2:

That day, another friend of the president’s explained to Fox News that this appeal had nothing to do with politics but the real fight of good versus evil:

Other pastors on social media had to remind their detractors that they had prayed for past presidents, too:

On Friday, May 31, a mass shooting took place in Virginia Beach. After golfing on Sunday, June 2, the president visited the Revd David Platt’s McLean Bible Church in Virginia, where he joined congregants in praying silently for the victims of the shooting.

The New York Post reported:

While he did not talk during the service, Trump stood behind pastor David Platt as he offered a prayer for the 12 killed in Friday’s mass shooting.

The president was there to “visit with the Pastor and pray for the victims and community of Virginia Beach,” said Judd Deere, the White House’s deputy press secretary.

Trump arrived at about 2:20 p.m. and his motorcade left a little over 15 minutes later.

DeWayne Craddock, 40, slaughtered 12 at Virginia Beach’s municipal building Friday — just hours after quitting his job as a civil engineer.

In turn, Platt prayed for the president:

I do not know where Platt stands on his stance of private redistribution of wealth he was promoting back in 2012, but I am grateful that he prayed for President Trump.

Considering the prayers, the threats that the president endures daily and Jon Voight’s comparison of him with Lincoln, it was amazing that he and the first lady went to Ford’s Theatre that night for an awards presentation. Ford’s Theatre was the site of Lincoln’s assassination:

I am very glad I was out of the country at the time. Otherwise I would have been worried about his safety.

Yet, thankfully, God continues to watch over President Trump, who flew to London that night with the first lady and his family (apart from Barron).

More on that trip tomorrow.

At the weekend, I saw two news stories about the Church which saddened me.

As we know, there is continuous persecution of Christians and destruction of their houses of worship. iCommitToPray has many stories about our fellow believers who are in trouble for their faith. One of the ways that governments can persecute churches is financially, such as this house church in Cuba (emphases mine):

Believers at a church in Cuba are making sure their church building remains occupied at all times to prevent authorities from demolishing it. The building, a garage that was donated to the house-church group years ago, cannot gain legal registration through the government. The house church has worshiped in the building for eight years, but the government has recently increased pressure on the church to close. Authorities fined the building’s owner the equivalent of two months’ salary and have repeatedly offered to purchase the property. On Dec. 2, government workers arrived to demolish the building, but they stopped when they saw that it was occupied by church members. The church members have decided to occupy the church continuously to prevent the demolition. Pray that believers in this house church will remain committed to Christ despite government pressure.

The second story says that there are more American followers of witchcraft than there are American Presbyterians! Kevin Shipp, a former CIA whistleblower, tweeted about it:

The accompanying news story, originally from The Telegraph in the UK, profiles the witch who recently put a hex on Justice Brett Kavanaugh:

“The hex centres on the notion that we live in a universe of chaos, entropy, destruction, death, decay with a final ending of oblivion – scientists are telling us. So the witch does everything for themselves – there is no other help in this universe of decay and chaos. If you don’t get in the driver’s seat things will just get worse,” the witch said.

The witch also alleges that the relationship between the Bible and witchcraft is close:

the Bible is a spell book, particularly the Book of Psalms.

Goodness me.

It seems as if those gravitating towards witchcraft have had dysfunctional childhoods — either involving church or family relationships. They have not been able to come to grips with those destructive experiences, which leads them to delve into witchcraft. Some also see witchcraft as a means of being able to get even with their enemies. They do not want to wait for the Lord to do that (Deuteronomy 32:35):

35 Vengeance is mine, and recompense,[a]
    for the time when their foot shall slip;
for the day of their calamity is at hand,
    and their doom comes swiftly.’

St Paul reminded the Roman Christians of that divine principle and encouraged them to live peaceably with everyone (Romans 12:17-19):

17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it[a] to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Please pray for the health of the Church this Christmas and pray also for those who left Her that they may return in faith via divine grace.

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